Vellore, Nov. 16: He used to consider himself personally close to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and held him in great affection. He counts several office-bearers of the Bharatiya Janata Party among his good friends. He used his oratorical skills in Parliament to the defence of the BJP even on indefensible issues. Yet no one — neither Vajpayee nor his other friends in the BJP — has sent any message of sympathy to Vaiko, currently in Vellore Jail under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
It is clear that Vaiko, leader of the Marumalarchi DMK (MDMK), is being treated by his allies as a political untouchable. Yet he continues to support the National Democratic Alliance government. “After all, I still have two ministers in the government. Don’t expect me to burn all my bridges just because I have been jailed,” he says.
If there is bitterness at being ignored while in jail, Vaiko does not show it. His supporters, however, feel that at least Vaiko’s friends in the BJP who are not in the government could have visited him as they were not bound by the same compulsions as the ministers of the NDA government.
As for Vaiko, he says: “Vajpayee may have some affection for me but frankly I did not expect anyone from the government to come and see me. When George Fernandes visited me I told him that I did not want anyone from the government to say even a word on my behalf to Jayalalithaa. This is my political battle and I want to fight it on my own.”
With Jayalalithaa playing footsie with the BJP and trying to please it with her anti-conversion law, Vaiko may have little choice but to fight his battles in Tamil Nadu alone. However, he does not think that eventually there would a political deal between the BJP and Jayalalithaa.
“I don’t think anything will come of the games she is playing with the NDA. Till the last minute she will keep pretending that she has more than one option and in the end she will surprise them. Then the BJP also knows what she has done to them in the past. You will see that eventually there will be no alliance,” Vaiko predicts.
Vaiko spoke out against the anti-conversion law introduced by Jayalalithaa, saying that it was a “pernicious” law. But he admitted that the BJP would like what she had done “because they come from the Hindutva framework”.
Last week, Vaiko was paid a surprise visit by the 78-year-old Karunanidhi who, despite inclement weather, drove down to Vellore. The Tamil newspapers went berserk with speculations about an impending political deal between the DMK and the MDMK. Some even said Vaiko’s wife had gone to Karunanidhi for help. “My family would never cringe before anybody for me. Karunanidhi came on his won and his was a totally non-political visit,” Vaiko claims.
He explains the visit by his one-time mentor by suggesting that he was only reciprocating a humane gesture: “My wife had called on Maran’s wife to inquire about his health. I suppose Karunanidhi came because of that. He was moved seeing me in jail like this. His eyes welled up with tears and the jail staff thought he was going faint and fall down. Then he hugged me. But we did not discuss politics — only Maran’s health.”
Vaiko denies the rumours of plans to merge his Marumalarchi DMK with Karunanidhi’s DMK. “But we had an electoral arrangement with them two years ago and we may come to an understanding with them two years hence also. But there will be no merger. I built this party (the MDMK) with tremendous struggle and we will not merge our identity with anyone else’s,” he explains.